• Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft

  • By: Sir Walter Scott
  • Narrated by: Eric Brooks
  • Length: 14 hrs and 9 mins
  • 3.7 out of 5 stars (61 ratings)

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Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft

By: Sir Walter Scott
Narrated by: Eric Brooks
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Publisher's Summary

In ill health following a stroke, Sir Walter Scott wrote Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft at the behest of his son-in-law, J. G. Lockhart, who worked for a publishing firm. The book proved popular, and Scott was paid £600, which he desperately needed. (Despite his success as a novelist, Scott was almost ruined when the Ballantyne publishing firm, where he was a partner, went bankrupt in 1826.)

Letters was written when educated society believed itself in enlightened times due to advances in modern science. Letters, however, revealed that all social classes still held beliefs in ghosts, witches, warlocks, fairies, elves, diabolism, the occult, and even werewolves. Sourcing from prior 16th- and 17th-century treatises on demonology, along with contemporary accounts from England, Europe, and North America (Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi, for one), Scott's discourses on the psychological, religious, physical, and preternatural explanations for these beliefs are essential for acolytes of the dark and macabre; the letters dealing with witch hunts, trials (Letters Eight and Nine), and torture are morbidly compelling.

Scott was neither fully pro-rational modernity nor totally anti-superstitious past, as his skepticism of one of the "new" sciences (skullology, as he calls it) is made clear in a private letter to a friend. Thus, Letters is both a personal and intellectual examination of conflicting belief systems, at a time when popular science began to challenge superstition in earnest.

Public Domain (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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What listeners say about Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Very dismissive

Not what was advertised. Author gives fair review of some prominent accounts. But states essentially all paranormal accounts are due to mental illness of some kind. Very skewed view point.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Good period research

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

As an academic resource this is a great book. However, it lacks any real narrative and seeks to "debunk" each and eery aspect of the supernatural. Which is okay, but not as interesting as the social and cultural effects of "demons and witches."

What was most disappointing about Walter Scott’s story?

The dry, non-committal description. The prose is lackluster and laden with opinion and attitude not story.

What three words best describe Eric Brooks’s performance?

Confident and Competent

Did Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft inspire you to do anything?

I expanded my research several degrees and was able to pinpoint a time period in which I was going to do more research.

Any additional comments?

Get the print version - this is a seek and cite book for academic purposes, not a story book for entertainment. I'd gladly add it to my shelves but the audio version is a bit harder to cite.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

It’s all in your head

Witches, demons, and ghosts are due to physical illness (e.g. extreme alcoholism), mental illness, or trickery (e.g. mirrors, conspiracy, etc.). Despite this broad dismissal, Sir Scott gives a fair hearing to each case, which range from Biblical stories to sad individuals accused of witchcraft in his day and their executions. The narration is good but periodically appears to drone. I had to take frequent breaks. It’s good but could have been better.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Some good folklore

Scott spends a lot of time trying convince the reader that witchcraft prosecutions are wrong

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Interesting...

This book accounts for an array of things from the best of Sir Walter Scott's understanding. Largely it details the trial and execution of alleged witches. The latter part of the book focuses on the author's dismissal of ghosts. The early part reflects on accounts within the Bible in regards to witches. It's interesting and overall charming.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Cut off after a few minutes

The audio book cut off--paused itself--after a few minutes. When I pressed the pause icon on my Kindle Fire to continue, the narration started over from the beginning. I hoped it would continue past the point where it had paused last time but no, it "paused" at the exact spot (in the middle of a word, no less) and started at the beginning again when I pressed the icon.

That is my main gripe. My second is that the narration is monotonous and stilted, pausing for long moments at every comma. As Sir Walter Scott wrote these letters around 1830 or so, the style of most of the sentences is long, with many additional clauses (calling for many commas) that either add to the sentence's original intent or divert it into another area altogether. A good narration might be able to overcome this style of writing and make it pleasant to the ear, but in this recording, by the time the sentence comes to an end, the listener has forgotten the beginning.

This recording should probably be skipped by the modern listener.